Although the majority of studies on community noise levels and children's physiological stress responses are positive, effect sizes vary considerably, and some studies do not confirm these effects. Employing a contextual perspective congruent with soundscapes, a carefully constructed sample of children (N = 115, M = 10.1 yr) living in households in relatively high (>60 dBA) or low (<50 dBA) noise areas created by proximity to major traffic arterials in Austria was reanalyzed. Several personal and environmental factors known to affect resting cardiovascular parameters measured under well-controlled, clinical conditions were incorporated into the analyses. Children with premature births and elevated chronic stress (i.e., overnight cortisol) were more susceptible to adverse blood pressure responses to road traffic noise. Residence in a multi-dwelling unit as well as standardized assessments of perceived quietness of the area did not modify the traffic noise impacts but each had its own, independent effect on resting blood pressure. A primary air pollutant associated with traffic volume (NO2) had no influence on any of these results. The scope of environmental noise assessment and management would benefit from incorporation of a more contextualized approach as suggested by the soundscape perspective.
We thank the many children, families, and teachers who participated in this research project. This research was mainly supported by the Austrian Ministry of Science and Transportation. Further support came from the Austrian-US Fulbright Commission, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, No. 1F33 HD08473-01. Funding for this reanalysis was provided during “ENNAH” within the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme ([FP7/2007-2013]) under grant agreement no. 226442.
I. INTRODUCTION II. METHODS A. Subject selection and area description B. Procedures 1. Questionnaire information 2. Physiologic stress indicators C. Exposure assessment D. Outcome assessment E. Statistical procedures III. RESULTS A. Sample and variable description B. Blood pressure: Main effects C. Blood pressure: Effect modification IV. DISCUSSION A. The investigated interactions B. The main effects C. Strength and weaknesses D. Interpretation and conclusion